- As you've probably heard by now unless you're living under a rock, after acquiring Daraprim (pyrimethamine) from Impax Labs in August, Turing Pharmaceuticals increased the price of the drug—which was approved 62 years ago, in 1953—from $13.50 to $750 per pill.
- Daraprim is used to treat malaria. It is also used to treat toxoplasmosis, a condition that sometimes affects pregnant women, but more commonly affects individuals with compromised immune systems, including HIV-infected patients, as well as those with cancer.
- NY Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman has initiated an investigation of Turing for allegedly attempting to restrict distribution and thwart generic competition.
So now, it's not just the outrageous price hike that has caught the attention of government officials. It's also the possibility of intentionally cornering the market and making it difficult for generic competitors to get into it.
A letter sent to Turing chief Martin Shkreli on Monday stated concerns that the company had engaged in antitrust activity by restricting access to Daraprim.
For a long time, Daraprim was under the radar, generating less than $10 million per year in revenues and not getting a lot of attention from generic manufacturers wanting to copycat it. Now, however, it may look more attractive to these companies. Daraprim has been removed from distribution through wholesalers and retail drugstores and is only available via the Walgreen's speciality pharmacies. Hospitals can attempt to access it by calling a special phone number.
The concern is that Daraprim's hard-to-get status is intentional, and that Turing designed it that way---and why not, considering how much profit there is when an off-patent pill costs $750? However, the other side of the argument is that distributors and retail drug stores often decide to limit how much of a drug they carry if sales are low.
Either way, Schneiderman is on the case. The problems for Shkreli are growing, and he's not commenting on this situation at this time. Nor has he responded to lawmakers who have demanded information about the Daraprim price increase. The pressure is on.